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DIY Mayhem on 'Bellflower'

2/14/2012 8:05 PM Eastern
Filmmaker Evan Glodell even builds the camera to shoot his post-apocalypse indie.

 

Evan Glodell is mechanically inclined. In order to shoot his no-budget post-apocalyptic love story Bellflower, he built his own camera. Glodell also built one of the film's main "characters," a tricked-out muscle car named Medusa that shoots flames. In addition, he is credited as the film's writer, star, director, producer and overseer of the editing staff.

   

Despite Glodell's limitations in terms of budget, his film is coming out on August 5, distributed by Oscilloscope, after well received screenings at the 2011 Sundance and SXSW film festivals.

Glodell came up with the idea for his Mad Max-style movie in 2003. While he might have liked to have a bigger budget for his project, that didn't happen, so in early 2008 he decided to start production anyway, with little to no money. He borrowed the services of friends he'd made on film sets over the years—and he says he made many new friends among fascinated onlookers willing to lend a hand while he was shooting this film on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

   
Coatwolf Model II Ultra Large Format Camera

The filmmaker had definite ideas about the look he wanted for his surreal film—high contrast, super saturation and shallow depth of field—and he didn't want to go with one of the prosumer-level cameras one might expect to see on a "no-budget" feature. Instead, he assembled his own camera from parts he'd collected over the years, some of which came from camera supply stores. "The camera itself wasn't expensive," he says. "It's just that the time invested in the construction and design was pretty intense."

Glodell and his friends built custom optical gear similar to adapters that replicate 35mm depth of field on smaller-chip HD cameras, only more elaborate and much larger. "We were playing with optics, hacking apart cameras and building handmade camera setups long before we started production," Glodell says. "We used the sensor and electronics from a Silicon Imaging SI-2K camera. Then the focusing mechanisms, all the optics and everything else is all stuff that we hacked together."

His custom camera was divided into two parts, each section powered separately and connected to an Apple MacBook Pro via Ethernet cable. A deep cycle battery, the kind normally used in forklifts and motorized wheelchairs, provided energy for the camera and laptop. While shooting, they had to shut the unit down frequently to preserve battery power.

   

Night shoots were particularly challenging. "We never had enough lights," Glodell says. "Some days we had more lights than others, but even then they were would be different color temperatures." The Bellflower crew used an ARRI light kit with three 650-watt Fresnel lights and a couple of Kino Flos they were able to borrow on certain days.

Now that the film is completed, Glodell thinks his approach to making it was really the best way to go. While a decent budget "would certainly have helped us secure locations and provide food for the crew," he says he doesn't regret being put in the position where he had to build this one-off camera himself. "More money would not have made much of a difference in terms of the visuals because I would have wanted to create this unique, hand-crafted camera to provide the film's distinctive look anyway."